Section 3


Chapter 1

Change itself

Most sciences deal mainly with changes, probably because change is the most obvious example of an effect. In a change, something becomes not what it was; but since it is something which becomes, then in some sense it still is what it was.

That is, a change is not simply a substitution. When the magician puts the handkerchief into the hat and pulls out the rabbit, the idea is to make it look as if the handkerchief changed into the rabbit; but we know that what he did was substitute a rabbit for the handkerchief when we weren't looking; and the rabbit used to be a rabbit, not a handkerchief, and the handkerchief (wherever it is) is still a handkerchief. There was a change, of course, but only a change in position of the two objects, not the change the magician created the illusion of.

But the points up the fact that there has to be some continuity for there to be a change; there has to be some sense in which you can say that what (now) isn't what it was must still in some sense be what it was. And, of course, you have to be able to say that this whatever-it-was-and-is is somehow not what it was, or you just have persistence, not change.

There are two possibilities of what might be called semi-changes: absolute beginning to exist (what some call "creation from nothing"), and absolute annihilation. Obviously, these are not changes in the sense we were just speaking of, because in the case of absolute beginning (if it happens), there is no "before" state that the being "came from," and in annihilation, the object didn't "turn into" anything, so that there is no "after" condition it "became."

A change is an act by which one and the same thing becomes different from itself.

The difference between a change and simple finiteness, then, is that the changing object makes itself different from itself, whereas in the case of finiteness, it simply is different from what it means to be itself, in that it is less than its full reality. To those who say, "Well, the changing object doesn't 'make itself' be different, it is made to be different," I answer that even if in every case the change has an external cause (which does not seem to be the case in every sense of the term), still, in "being made" different, obviously it is acting differently, but in response to the action on it; and so it is still "making itself" be different, only now not by itself.

Note, however, that though it makes itself different from itself, it must remain itself, or we have something like substitution (or annihilation of one object and absolute beginning of another which has no relation to it) and not change. So it makes itself be both different from and the same as itself.

Obviously, then, change is a mode of finiteness, because in order to change, a being must contain what it is not within it. In fact, if you look back at our discussion of the finite, we arrived at finiteness from a consideration of our consciousness precisely as changing: as being one and the same consciousness all the time, but as being different consciousnesses at different times.